Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vegan, grain and gluten-free cookie dough super bites

When I was hard-core dieting, I kind of briefly experimented with healthier desserts, like lower-sugar muffins, quinoa cookies, low-fat and low sugar granola. At some point, I realized that even really "healthy" desserts had to have a good bit of sweetness just to be worth eating, and that I really didn't have room in my calorie budget for any of it. It was better to just avoid as many sweets as possible and reduce cravings. Calories were better spent on slower release energy and meals, not extra desserts.

Well all that is still true, but I've returned to making the healthy desserts anyway, and I'm probably a 10 lbs heavier because of them, or, rather because of my inability to really be as stringent as I need to be to be 10 lbs thinner in general. The healthier desserts are one part of that.

Still - I did not revert to eating Ben and Jerry's, and I did not gain back 45 lbs. I did make some progress.

Result is, I'm obsessed with medjool dates, almonds, and the alchemy derived from combining them in a food processor. So I've experimented with date truffles, rolled, stuffed dates, date "cookie dough". You name it. I've added milled chia seeds, hemp seeds, cacao bits, cinnamon, orange peel, even Cheerios!

After much experimenting I came across this recipe  from the maker of Pure Bar- I knew it would be good just from watching the video and what I knew about those ingredients, and I made it even better, in my opinion. I reprinted the ingredients below with my alterations. I didn't keep it "raw" bc I like toasted almonds and the nutrition professors I've spoken with think the idea of nuts losing nutrients when roasted isn't so worrisome.

Pure Bar recipe from FitSugar video

1 cup medjool dates-pitted
3/4 cup toasted almonds (preferably the slivered kind from Trader Joe's)
3/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup cacao nibs, unsweetened
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract or preferably this super expensive vanilla paste- from Amazon or Whole Foods
1.5 Tablespoons coconut oil OR 1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (I've done both, oil has a better stronger flavor, but make them oily)
1/2 teaspoon salt or more
2 Tablespoons hemp seeds

Put all in a food processor, blend to desired consistency (more or less chunky) then press into silicone muffin tins and freeze or refrigerate

All I did to change the recipe was use the toasted almonds instead of raw cashews and I added the hemp seeds. I am not sure I used the exact measurements  - I may have had a higher date ratio, but for the purposes of this blog I'll promote the original. please taste and add more of what you think is missing and make it your own. You can try and work in some rice crispies, for a different texture.

super delicious and every ingredient adds some value - lots of antioxidents, fiber, omegas....

they go really well in a lunch box frozen or a work pouch.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Everything bagel seed crackers

Hi all,
these crackers meet with anyone's dietary restrictions.
vegan, gluten-free, sugar free, low-carb, dairy-free, nut-free, wheat free, grain free
and they're addictive and full of important nutrients. they are also very low in calories and keep you full for a long time. I've estimate about 35 calories for a 1.5 x 1 inch cracker using online recipe calculators.

I've posted this in bits and pieces on Facebook. Here is my take on the ohsheglows seed crackers. My edition is MUCH more flavorful, which some people may not appreciate. But if you spread some cream cheese on these I swear they taste like an everything bagel without the bagel.

The trick to these crackers is in getting the mixture evenly spread out on an UNRIMMED baking sheet, and having an evenly cooking oven, which I do not have.

Some people eat these raw - so all seeds raw and made in a dehydrator. I don't do any of that. I like roasted and I don't believe in the raw theories, based on my research.
The purchasing of the ingredients is annoying. You can leave out the ones you can't be bothered to find. Also most of the TJs ingredients are available at WF at a much greater price. Measurements are to taste. If you love sunflower seeds add more of those, etc.

Preheat oven to 320 and line big unrimmed baking sheet with parchment paper - not silicone mats

Put the ingredients below in a big bowl

3/4 cup chia seeds (TJs)
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds (TJs)
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (TJs)
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds (I roast my own in lots of batches every so often but you can skip this step or find -pre roasted ones) (in bulk at local market or WF)
1/2 cup hemp seeds (WF or natural foods store)
2 T + 1T toasted garlic bits (McCormick's - local grocery store)
2T toasted onion bits (ditto)

Put the ingredients below in a blender and blend completely.

1/4 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1.5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt (or more)
several grinds of a black pepper mill

Mix all dry ingredients together - pulse blender, mix up water, and pour into dry ingredient bowl.

Wait a few minutes until you see the chia seeds forming a gel-like circle around them and water is absorbed. If water doesn't absorb wait a minute or two then if it still doesn't absorb add more chia seeds. If it doesn't get all gelled up, add more water.
spread mixture evenly on the parchment paper. It should be about as thick as the ones you may have tasted of mine - maybe 1/4 inch? They don't rise or anything during baking so they thickness I made works. You can use a solid pie server or some other flat implement to get it even and you can patch thinned out places easily.

Sprinkle remaining garlic and a nice bit of salt on the top and press in with your hands.

Put in oven and set timer for 25 min. It will probably be about 30 min but you want them pretty solid but not crunchy for the first baking. If you have too much mixture for one pan, don't over stuff, but add a second pan.

Take out of oven and cut with a pizza cutter into your desired size and flip. If your oven cooks unevenly you can flip the outside parts in before cutting the individual crackers, like in the photo to the right. Put back in the oven for another 25-30 min depending on the oven. They should be totally crispy but not burned. I take mine out in batches bc my oven is so uneven.

They go really well with cream cheese, hummus or tuna salad. And they keep you full for hours!

I also make a sweet version. It's trickier and less "healthy" just in that it has a lot of sugar and calories, even if the sugar is in the form of dates, but still super healthy, relatively low-sugar and full of lots of nutrients and slow release energy - better than anything you'd buy for sure. Just replace the fresh onion and garlic with 8 dates and a tablespoon cinnamon in the water in the blender. Then also chop up at least 2 cups of fresh medjool dates from TJs (I really don't like the WF version) and a cup or two of chopped walnuts. Add the chopped dates/walnuts to the seed mixture (also skip the toasted onion and garlic bits). You need more add-ins than you think - at least 3 cups total, or else they are too sparse. The sweet version must be cooked carefully, and maybe lower, 315 or even 300 if you are willing to wait forever. They are harder to spread out and take a longer time to cook because of the extra moisture and fiber, and with the chopped dates and walnuts in them they are going to be thicker. It's also easy for the dates to burn, but they are the best breakfast or post-workout food around. A great thing to make when you're home all afternoon on a Sunday. I do sometimes make both versions at once and just keep track of what's in the oven. They last forever and go a long way - you don't need to eat a lot of them, so they are worth the effort every once in a while. Once you get to know your oven and the stage at which to flip and cut them it's really easy.  I know I'm making this sound really hard and it's not - it just takes a little more attention to get the first batch right for your taste and oven and then you will be good to go next time. These I cut in bars, not crackers. They are delicious and I'll make a batch this weekend and post a photo.

add smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, chili powder to taste

I have not made this yet, but I'd like to try with oregano and some parmesan cheese - I'm not sure  when to add the cheese as it doesn't need to cook for an hour like the other ingredients. When I get this right I'll post.

Next up vegan  gluten-free cookie dough bites. There are many cookie dough bite recipes out there but most of them are bad.